Rachael Ray Culinary Tuition Competition Winner Update

I got a chance to support the winner of the Rachael Ray Culinary Tuition Competition that I took part in a few months ago, recently.  It was so great to see Rachel Green in her element.  The room was nicely decorated and we all came together to raise money for her temporary move to NYC for culinary school at The International Culinary Center.

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Rachel had a very nice turn out to support her, and enjoy a lovely dinner.DSC_0502 The place settings were lovely, we each had a canvas for the “Dine and Design” themed event.

DSC_0504 Rachel planned silent auction for art and a few of her gifts from The Rachael Ray Show

DSC_0500Rachel served these deviled eggs that were sinful.  I have to get the recipe.
IMG_1880We started with Rachel’s asparagus potato soup that she made in the competition, it was very tasty.  She shared with the diners that the show was her first time cooking with asparagus.

DSC_0507 We got to sample Rachel’s fried chicken in this salad.  The salad had a delicious vinaigrette. 
DSC_0511 Rachel mad a perfectly consistent grit dish with bacon and green onions and gravy.  I was impressed that because she was not pleased with the cook on the shrimp, that she refused to serve that portion of the dish.

IMG_1892 I was quite pleased with my art piece, I think it will be in a frame very soon

IMG_1891 Thank you again Rachel for allowing me to participate in this awesome journey that you are embarking on.  I can’t wait to come behind you and see where this exciting opportunity takes you.  If you are in the neighborhood, try to attend Rachel’s next “Dine and Design” event, visit her site and get your tickets now.

Mexican Quinoa

I have been on Pinterest searching for healthy recipes that are quick and delicious, and I stumbled upon damndelicious.net‘s Mexican Quinoa.  The reason I enjoyed it is of course because it is tasty, but also because it is quick and easy.  I added more seasoning to my version of the recipe.  I just discovered this site, and I will certainly be revisiting it.


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Mexican Quinoa

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cloves of garlic (minced)

1 jalapeno (minced)

1 cup quinoa

1 cup frozen or fresh corn

1 cup of vegetable broth

1 can fire roasted tomatoes

1 can black beans (rinsed and drained)

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 tablespoon cumin

the juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

salt and pepper to taste

Cook the garlic and jalapeño in the olive oil until soft.  Add the corn, black beans, quinoa, broth, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper, and cover for about 20 minutes

Food doesn’t always have to be fancy and complex, but for me, it always has to be enjoyed. So please enjoy and let me know what you think.

 

Culinary Institute of America

I fulfilled a dream that I didn’t even know I had.  I didn’t know what to expect when I planned a last minute trip to Hyde Park, NY with my foodie bestie.  I just knew it would be a trip that would help define my path.  We planned to visit the restaurant named after one of the most prolific French chefs of all times, Chef Paul Bocuse The Bocuse Restaurant.  Though this was not our first choice, of the Culinary Institute of America’s restaurants, I am so glad we went.IMG_1414The school campus was so gorgeous and inviting.  If that day occurred maybe 5 years ago, I would have scheduled a full tour and enrolled in the degree program that Saturday afternoon.IMG_1417IMG_1419Team greedy was in full form.  We ordered about 3 appetizers, an entree each and a dessert each, and we were not disappointed, in fact we were beside our selves with excitement. 

IMG_1421Seared Pork Belly with Pickled Watermelon, Farro Salad, Corn Purée, and Pork Vinaigrette

IMG_1422Sweetbread Roulade with Morels, Jambon, and Truffle sauce

IMG_1423Roasted Saddle of Lamb with Artichokes, Braised Spring Greens and a Potato Terrine

IMG_1424Modernist Lemon Bar with Crème Fraîche Cake, Lemon Curd, Coconut Ice Cream, and Tamarind SauceIMG_1426 IMG_1427The meal was amazing followed up by a tour of the kitchen by our fabulous server (no photos, chef was not in the mood).  Natalia, our server from Colombia allowed us to ask her all sorts of questions about her educational experience at the CIA. She shared with us how she came to the school planning to cook, and fell in love with the front of the house.    I highly suggest you take a day trip from the tourist trap the New York City can often be, and visit The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.  You can learn to cook in one of the bootcamps (I will be doing that soon for sure), or you can also visit one of their several restaurants on campus that are top of the line.  The students are running all parts of the show, from the kitchen to the front of the house.  We had a blast walking the halls and talking to students.  I can’t wait to go back.

Fried Chicken Rookie

I decided to take on the challenge of frying chicken.  I call it a challenge because I have always worried about burnt on the outside and raw on the inside fried chicken.  But when I didn’t win the Rachael Ray Tuition Competition this past May, and the winner cooked fried chicken that Chef Pepín truly enjoyed, I knew either I was doing some research and facing my fears, or I was asking Rachel Green the winner of the competition to teach me.  I decided to see if I could do it on my own first.  I watched several videos and talked to people more experienced with frying and came up with the following process.

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I started with a good mixture of buttermilk and hot sauce.IMG_1310Once the chicken was removed from the buttermilk I seasoned the chicken with salt, onion powder, garlic powder and chipotle pepper.  I seasoned the flour with the same seasonings as the chicken and coated the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour…TWICE, super crispy.

IMG_1324IMG_1325 The vegetable oil temperature was heated to 350 deg.

IMG_1328I dropped the pieces of chicken in the oil and let them cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes.IMG_1331IMG_1332
IMG_1347I have fried chicken a couple of times now, and my family enjoyed it.  I even fried some for my guy and his friend said “this chicken doesn’t even need hot sauce, it is perfect”.  I gotta say, this chicken is so good, but I have other plans to elevate the flavor even more, and add a bit more spice and sweet.  Stay tuned.


Tortilleria Nixtamal

I found the best Mexican restaurant in Queens and you can go there and catch a soccer game on tv or just catch up with friends and enjoy a feast of tacos.  I saw Tortilleria Nixtamal on the Food Network and I’m sure other channels, but I had to make a stop there before my flight and after I ran a short race.  Besides making and selling tortillas wholesale, this place knows how to serve up authentic Mexican tastiness.IMG_1457

The restaurant is situated directly in the neighborhood of Corona NY.  I wish I lived next door.

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I had to start with my first authentic tamale, and it was delicious corny goodness.   I chose the chipotle chicken and pork in a spicy red salsa tamale.  I also tasted the sweet corn tamale, and that was very good as well.

IMG_1453 I ordered (from left to right – Chorizo, Pollo, Carnitas, and Skate Tacos)  The Chorizo taco has house made chorizo sausage, with beans avocado salsa and cilantro.  It had quite a kick.  The pollo (chicken) taco had crunchy carrots, onion and chili salsa with avocado salsa.  The Carnitas (slow roasted pork) was very tasty as well, but what wouldn’t be tasty cooked in lard, this taco also was topped with cilantro and onion.  And finally, I had the skate fish taco, it had a fried skate wing topped with pico de gallo.  I love the fact that although the protien is heavy on the taco, this food always has a fresh finish not some lazy jarred salsa, you can tste the care that is put into these tacos.IMG_1454 We had a sweet and salty treat with the fried plaintain order on the side, they were candy sweet, and topped with Cotija cheese and some sort of green salsa, I think avocado salsa.IMG_1455 My friend and foodie homie enjoyed the vegetarian sharings that Tortilleria Nixtimal has (from left to right –  Nopales (cactus) tacos topped with tomato, radish, onion, and melted Oaxaca cheese.  Rajas (Chilis (Grilled Pablano, Jalapeno) taco was topped with tomatillos, tomato and queso fresco, Frijoles (Refried beans) with avocado and queso fresco, and Pescado (Fish) with pico de gallo.IMG_1456We finished the meal off with a deliciously moist Tres Leches cake to share.  I know its not really part of the tourist trap we call NYC, but it isn’t far.  To get to this tiny hidden gem in Corona, you need to take the E train to Jamaica Center and then hop on the Q23 bus toward East Elmhurst Ditmars Blvd via 108th St. to 108th St. 7th Ave. and walk 3mins to the restaurant, or you can be like me and just catch an Uber (I know I’m spoiled).  But, trust me it’s worth the trip.

 

Essence Fest 2015 Eats (Day Three)

Ahhh Day Three at Essence Festival 2015…

After a really fancy meal at Emeril’s Delmonico, and super casual food from the Essence Festival Food Truck Rally we closed out Essence Festival food fun with a stop at Chef’s John Besh and Aarón Sánchez collaboration restaurant Johnny Sánchez.

Our dinner at Johnny Sánchez was absolutely delicious.

We started with chips and salsa and of course we had to have guacamole.

They have these amazing crispy brussels sprouts with Cotija cheese, potatoes and peppers with an outstanding spicy vinaigrette.  I could eat that as a meal by itself, and be very satisfied.  In fact I think the next trip, if they can have that boxed up for me as I arrive in New Orleans, I will set that up for sure.IMG_1626

I ordered the beef tongue tacos, well because, I had to.  I wanted to try something that I never had before, and it was not a mistake.  The meet was so tender, and flavorful, and the fresh toppings that it was served with had the perfect crunch.IMG_1627
Dessert was like it was from a completely different restaurant, that is not a bad thing.  What I mean is that the tacos are so casual, and the desserts were so refined, it was a perfect ending to the meal.

My sister Renee had the best dessert of Masa Cake with all sorts of corny yummy goodness, there was buttermilk foam, roasted corn, and grilled peaches. AMAZING! 
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The other dessert was a Lime Tres Leches with a very flavorful lime sorbet.  Though it was tasty it was a little drier of a cake than I would expect, maybe more like a biscuit than a cake, nonetheless it was still very good.IMG_1629

Finally the stop that most tourist take in New Orleans in the later hours for something sweet, yep you guessed it, Café Du Monde for fresh hot beignets.

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If you have never explored the culinary oasis that is New Orleans, I suggest you make a special trip, and Essence Fest during 4th of July weekend is an excellent time to visit.

Biscuits

When I moved to south Georgia for my job, I knew I would need to make the best of the move.  So I challenged myself to get as many southern recipes down as I could.  Some of the main things that I wanted to get down was fried chicken, shrimp and grits, gumbo and biscuits.  I fried some amazing chicken, but I will get to that in a future post.

I have learned that whipping up biscuits at a moments notice is really not that overwhelming.  They take no time to mix up and pop in the oven.

I found a cookbook on amazon for biscuits specifically, and I know in there lies the best biscuit secrets.  The book is called Southern Biscuits by by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart.

I still have some perfecting to do, I would like to get my biscuits appearance to be more plump and fluffy.  My family enjoyed these biscuits and gave them the thumbs up, but I want them to pass the southern test.

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2 1/4 cups of self rising flour

1/4 cup chilled butter cut into 1/4 in pieces

1/4 cup chilled butter cunt into 1/2 in pieces

1 cup buttermilk

Combine by hand the flour and the 1/4 in pieces of butter until well crumbled.  Add the 1/2 in pieces of butter to the flour mixture and add 3/4 cup buttermilk.  Once the mixture comes together like a dough, turn it onto a floured surface and flatten and fold 3 times to create layers.  Finally flatten the dough into 1/3in round.  Cut the biscuits out of the dough and bake in a buttered pan for 10-14 minutes at 425F.

 

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After we enjoyed the biscuits as breakfast we enjoyed the biscuits as dessert in a strawberry shortcake with hand whipped cream with a touch of vanilla and sugar, and macerated strawberries.  For a nice touch, I sprinkled the desserts with Turbanado sugar

 

Essence Fest 2015 Eats (Day Two)

Day two of the Essence Festival food tour started with my leftover banana bread that I brought for my trip here.  Side note it is the best recipe I have found for moist on the inside crisp on the outside banana bread.  I am sure you can guess whose recipe might be my favorite, and what I think is the best, you guessed it Mr. Cronut™ himself Dominique Ansel, click here to get the recipe.  Ok that was a long side note, but I had to share.

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I was able to grab a plate of red beans and rice with a piece of french bread for a snack.

IMG_1571Later, I found the Essence Festival Food Truck Experience sponsored by Coca-Cola.  One of the trucks, Whoodoo BBQ, introduced me to their “Ghetto Burger”

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I know what you’re thinking, but I went out on a limb and ordered it.  The guy on the truck described it as “A big ole burger on a Po-boy bun with some special sauce”  I was sold.  It really didn’t disappoint.  The burger was formed right in front of us, and the seasoning was awesome, all the way through.  The sauce on the burger, I thought I would need to scrape it off, but I ate it all, without even getting a drop on my clothes.

Day Three’s highlight was a stop at Chef’s John Besh and Aarón Sánchez collaboration restaurant Johnny Sánchez.

Essence Fest 2015 Eats and Treats (Day One)

Every year my sister (Renee) and I attend Essence Festival in New Orleans.  The trip started out as an opportunity for us and several girlfriends to hangout and party with a purpose every year, and has morphed into a networking, celebration of our passions.

1045159_10103590926830664_1309361523_n Every year we have at least one nice dinner, to feed my passion for food.  We have dined at Emeril’s New Orleans, NOLA, John Besh’s Borgne and American Sector (when it was managed by his company), Cochon, and several others throughout our 9 or 10 year traditional visit.

This year day one we had reservations at another Emeril Legasse restaurant.  We dined at Emeril’s Delmonico this visit.  Emeril’s Delmonico is the only restaurant in New Orleans that dry ages their own steak.  My sister had the New York Strip and it was very tasty.

My favorite dishes were the barbecued shrimp and grit cake and the pork cheeks over dirty rice, both were appetizers.  The non stop supply of fresh cornbread didn’t hurt either.  
IMG_1530 IMG_1529 IMG_1528 IMG_1526IMG_1531For my entree I had the paneéd swordfish over risotto, it was so light and had a great crunch with the fennel salad on top.  I am absolutely a texture gal.

If you are looking to be wined and dined, enjoy a great night out at Emeril’s Delmonico.  Ladies…they even escort you to the restroom (offering their arm to lead you).

 

Simple Summer Grilling Pork Tenderloin

I don’t know about you, but I have started this summer super busy, and this summer in South Georgia has proven to be a hot one.  So my interest in babysitting anything on the grill is pretty low right now.  But, one of my favorite go to summer meals is pork tenderloin and any vegetable off of the grill.

This particular day I chose the asparagus to grill, simply with olive oil and salt.

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The pork tenderloin was rubbed in a mixture of garlic, onion and chipotle chili powders, along with brown sugar and salt.  After the meat sat seasoned for about 30 minutes, I grilled it on all sides.

IMG_1317 I love cooking pork tenderloin, because it cooks fairly quickly, and if you do it right it stays moist as well.

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Season the 2 pounds of pork tenderloin with salt and pepper well

mix a rub of:

1 teaspoon of onion powder

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

3 tablespoons of chipotle chili powder

4 tablespoons of brown sugar

coat the tenderloins with the seasoning and allow the pork to sit for at least 20 minutes, before grilling.  Enjoy